Somewhere Between the Two by Jay Little
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
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I read this book on the recommendation of Victor J. Banis in his autobiography Spine Intact, Some Creases.
I rather suspect Mr. Banis’ recommendation is based on memories of when he first read this book, published originally in 1956, than on a current reading. While it is, as Banis suggests, a behind the scenes tale of a female impersonator, in modern terms the book is far too focused on suicide and sad gay lives to really be able to focus on much else.
In addition to the sad gay lives, the author frequently lapses into verse so flowery it is nonsensical:
With whom would Terry taste of the scarlet fruit close to serpent waters?
The height of the nonsensical prose is during the few sex scenes:
Drowsily, not quite sure but that he might be dreaming, he watched the blurred vision in front of him, and when their ridged bodies contacted again in the night, the rose of love was blooming because they were both lonely and mortal. There could no longer be concealments and evasions. The life in which Bruce Sanger lived, floating like an island in oceanic dawn, had sent another wanderer to his shore of needs, boundaries, and events. It had come from no space and no time. It was as old as the world, and yet it was so mysterious and haunting as it wove its damp breath of memories over him.
They’re actually kind of funny, the author sometimes goes on for paragraphs about volcanoes and the crescent moon, etc.
I found the life of the female illusionist interestingly portrayed:
Each one created an illusion so close to reality that many in the audience gasped, "Do you mean to tell me that's a boy... really? You could fool me...." And that, to the impersonator, was more than adequate compensation for all the uncertainties and disappointments, rude remarks, corruptions, the anxieties and the heartaches and heartbreaks, with which their lives are beset.
I feel some of this may have been white-washed for the time period the book was written. There are maybe ten female impersonators in the troupe and only 2 are gay? They’re made to seem like straights are the norm in the business, and I don’t think that has ever been true.
The author talks of straight men coming on to the impersonators:
The animal scent within their loins was eager for new quests, an escape from the form of payment in installments called marriage.
So he doesn’t really make straight life sound great either. The gay life is played as darker than it was and the impersonator life is played lighter, so I don’t really trust the historical aspects of the book.
Also the melodrama really bubbles over the top in this one.
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